FIRST STEP Advances to Last Step: Congress Passes Bipartisan Criminal Justice Package
Congress has passed a bipartisan criminal justice package that will enhance public safety and empower individuals. President Trump endorsed the legislation last month and will sign it into law. In addition, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), which represents more than 330,000 law enforcement officers, and the National District Attorney’s Association (NDAA), which represents 2,500 district attorneys and 40,000 assistant district attorneys, support the measure, along with the American Conservative Union, Right on Crime, and Prison Fellowship.
The FIRST STEP Act is modeled after successful criminal justice legislation passed in states such as Georgia, Oklahoma, and Texas. Many of these provisions are based off of ALEC models. For example, it contains a safety valve similar to the ALEC model Justice Safety Valve Act, which provides a mechanism for a judge to depart from imposing a statutorily prescribed mandatory minimum sentence on certain offenders. In addition, the FIRST STEP Act provides for robust prisoner reentry programs. The ALEC model Resolution in Support of Reentry Programs outlines the crucial role that reentry programs play in reducing crime rates by reducing recidivism rates.
Certainly, criminals should be punished for their crimes; however, they should have the opportunity to be productive members of society after they have served their criminal sentence. There are those offenders who will continue to recidivate despite the passage of the FIRST STEP Act. However, these measures have reduced recidivism rates in the states and have also lowered the crime rate. The FIRST STEP Act is the federal government’s effort to mimic the successful solutions that have been demonstrated in the laboratories of democracy. These solutions have made states and communities safer. In essence, the FIRST STEP Act will contribute to public safety and give ex-offenders the opportunity to become productive members of society.